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Catherine Mavriplis

Catherine Mavriplis, Mechanical Engineering Professor at the University of Ottawa and Chair of the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, sat down to answer a few questions about her life and career.

What is your current job?

I am currently an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and NSERC / Pratt & Whitney Chair for Women in Science and Engineering. As a professor I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in engineering, conduct research, supervise students in research and serve the larger scientific and engineering community through journal article and proposal reviewing, invited talks and much more. As Chair, I run activities such as workshops and conferences to promote diversity and women in science and engineering, and conduct research with partners in the social sciences and communications to understand the status and progression of women in science and engineering careers.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

While I really preferred applied mathematics as a student, my father, being an engineer (like all good engineers), steered me into engineering. I am thankful for that push because I can really appreciate the usefulness of producing systems that benefit society while using my mathematical skills. My father worked at Canadair / Bombardier Aerospace for 48.5 years so, in a way, I was steeped in engineering from the beginning. Christmas plant tours every year taught me about fatigue of aircraft wings and much more.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

What I like most about being a professor is the freedom to pursue your own research interests, the competition to write proposals to secure funds for new research projects and of course the constant fresh influx of ideas from students. What I like most about my research in computational fluid dynamics is the combination of mathematics, fluid dynamics and computer programming that lets you create beautiful flows from a bunch of 0s and 1s! I like the exactness of it. What I like most about the Chair is having the privilege to meet and promote so many smart accomplished women who truly bring new aspects to the sciences and engineering.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

This year we have a number of activities for National Engineering Month. This campaign of 30 women in 30 days is our first: we hope you enjoy reading about the variety and substantial accomplishments of talented women from across Ontario. On March 8th, we are hosting a full day event on teamwork in engineering– looking at communications and team dynamics as they affect the team’s work. This will be a hands-on bilingual workshop. Please join us for this free workshop: Engineering Your Team!

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Go for it! You’re smart, you’re talented and we need you to make a difference in engineering practice and products.

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Catherine Mavriplis obtained her B. Eng. (Honours) in Mechanical Engineering from McGill University in December 1983 and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986 and 1989 respectively. She then was appointed as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Catherine has been a tenured professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The George Washington University, where she was on the faculty from 1991 to 2005. There she was also co-director and co-founder of the Center for the Study of Combustion and the Environment and a participating member and co-founder of the Institute for MEMS and VLSI Technologies.

Catherine has also been a visiting scientist at ICASE (the Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering at the NASA Langley Research Center) and at CERCA (Centre de recherche en calcul appliqué) and spent two years as a Program Director in the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the US National Science Foundation. Catherine subsequently served as a Research Fellow at the University of Oklahoma and the US NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, before returning to Canada, where she has been an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Ottawa since 2008. She was recently named NSERC / Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Ontario region. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Computational Fluid Dynamics Society of Canada and the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute AERO 2013 Organizing Committee.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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